nytheatre.com review by E. Michael Lockley
May 7, 2010
Binding as a solo dance piece is very much about one man. While it is wonderful to watch performer Jesse Zaritt move, the piece struggles to move its audience. The universality of experience in love and relationships is something that has always been fodder for storytelling, from Romeo and Juliet to The Backup Plan. These familiar, archetypal moments in "love" contribute to many pop culture successes in all art—music, theatre, film, photography. And yet a lack of these clearly defined moments keeps Binding from really surpassing the gap between a nice dance piece and a truly moving experience.
Zaritt explores the idea of love and connection in this dance-theatre piece. Zaritt flings, slides, catapults, thrusts, drops, and even exposes his body throughout this 40-minute journey. The journey begins with Zaritt dancing to Queen's "Play the Game." During this song he seduces the audience with his eyes and with his movement, sliding and reaching, teasing us, inviting us to play the game. Then gradually the music and the movement transition into something more worrisome. Zaritt allows his body to stomp, kick, and drop, seeming either dissatisfied or stung by his attempt at seduction. He sprawls on the symbolic bed (a well-crafted set piece that utilizes the "binding" theme), longing for something better, for a connection. The tone changes with a hint of a red light that grows and music whose steady beat is a welcome change from the ephemeral sounds of the earlier scene. It seems as if a connection may be made at a night in the club. Zaritt swings his hips and thrusts his pelvis. He and the music work well together especially in this section. The hums, rumbles, booms, and pows of Hilary Charnas's composition set the tone for this party experience. From here on, Zaritt goes through an intimate struggle with an elastic black piece of fabric that resembles a shadow, his shirt becomes a mask (or a strangulation device), and he has to deal with regret. The use of One Republic's hit song "Apologize" is most intriguing throughout the piece, and especially at the show's conclusion.
Where Binding sometimes stumbles is when it seems not to believe that dance and a little bit of emotion can go a long way. If multimedia elements don't assist with telling this story, then there's no need for them. The white screens (positioned like sails) that fill most of the stage are sometimes filled with abstract images and at other times effects-heavy live footage of the performance. In trying to understand what this "meant," I lost the dance. And while the dance was beautiful, I wanted to really feel for Zaritt, but just needed to get a sense of some emotion from him. While his body did lots, his face didn't change much. And I feel like if time was spent working on the emotional experience of Zaritt's up and downs, rather than multimedia, the dance piece would have had a more lasting impact on its audience.
One final thing that I must praise is Hillary Charnas's composition and Sharath Patel's sound design. They serve the work onstage incredibly. The aural elements of the piece are mesmerizing, from how sounds moved around the room, to the unique manipulation of familiar songs. The sound and music created an environment that engrossed me and assisted in understanding Zaritt's world of longing, courting, engaging, and regret.
Binding provides a nice dance experience that has some wonderful moments, but this piece about one man's struggle with finding a connection was unable to connect with me on a visceral level.